2022 Airport Business Top 40 Under 40: Ashley P. Thorsen, C.M.

Dec. 13, 2022
Ashley P. Thorsen, C.M., Operations Manager, South Bend International Airport
Ashley Thorsen
Ashley Thorsen

Ashley P. Thorsen, C.M., began her aviation career as an intern at the Raleigh-Durham International Air Traffic Control Tower (ATC), while working on her associates degree in air traffic and aviation management from Hampton University in Virginia and getting her student pilot’s license. Completing her degree to eventually become an Air Traffic Controller was a dream of hers, and she got the ticket to Oklahoma City, OK to complete the FAA’s training program in 2015, however things didn’t go as planned. An evaluation that didn’t end in her favor landed her back in Raleigh starting from square one. In the meantime, she would go on to manage one of her favorite restaurants, Bella Monica, when a fellow classmate from Oklahoma, who also didn’t get through the academy, sat down, and started talking to Thorsen about the RDU ramp tower and how that was like ATC. From that interaction, Thorsen immediately contacted the manager of the tower and landed herself a job, quickly promoting to a supervisor.

While in the ramp tower it snowed significantly, there was a ground stop, and the RDU operations team was in the tower with her working the snow desk. She mentioned her interest in the position and inquired about the job, and later that month had an interview with RDU, landing that job as an Operations Officer.

Working at RDU, she helped develop a strong teamwork and culture within the organization, exceeded her daily duties on the airfield, and accepted leading multiple projects and one, partnering with American Airlines to improve the remain overnight (RON) parking system for the Terminal 1 ramp benefiting the properties department and record keeping. Thorsen said she loved Raleigh, but when she saw an opportunity to advance her career as the Operations Manager at South Bend International Airport (SBN), she took it.

In addition to her day-to-day work at SBN, she is a leader of initiatives such as Aviation Education Day, the Safety Management System Program, and the Employee Appreciation Committee. She also is a certified member of AAAE, an Airport Cooperative Research Program contributor, and a member of Women in Aviation and The Ninety-Nines. She serves on the Great Lakes Chapter AAAE Academic Relations and Operations & Maintenance Conference committees and is a member of the NEC International Snow Symposium Committee. In the community she works alongside the Ronald McDonald House and Girls on the Run charities. Through Leadership South Bend Mishawaka, she completed the Emerge program and was also recognized by the Visit South Bend Mishawaka as an award winner for the “faces of tourism” for engagement in the community.

Her love for aviation started as kid flying with her family to Navy bases around the world to travel with her dad. This, at a young age, inspired her passion to work in the industry and remain daily around aircraft.

“Every day is different, every problem is diverse, and working as a team to find the solution and seeing a plan come to fruition is the coolest, especially when it impacts the people who travel daily through my airport,” said Thorsen, who holds a Master of Science in Aerospace and Aviation Management from Purdue University.

Her hope is that people view her as an optimistic person, always looking to make a positive impact.

“Any type of negative thing that I've approached in my entire life, I've always tried to put a encouraging spin on it and make people feel invested and important in anything they do. I can't be a good leader without my team and without all the ideas from all the people that work for me. So, just knowing that I build people up personally and professionally to get to where they want to go makes me happy. It makes me feel like I've done my job well.”

A personal goal of Thorsen is to travel to all 30 professional baseball stadiums. She’s been to 26 so far.